Twenty-First Day of Lent

Luke 18:35-43
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

There were laws in Jesus’ day which laid responsibility on people to look after people who were blind. Unfortunately, perhaps because they have grown tired of the endless responsibility, this man is forced to beg. Not only that, he isn’t even begging in the city but outside it (Luke 18:35).

The persistence of the man perhaps gives a clue to his character. He will not be silenced, nor will he be put in his place and so he cries and cries until Jesus stops and pays attention.

Should it not have been obvious to Jesus what the man wanted Jesus to do? After all, at his very first sermon in Capernaum when he read from the scroll of Isaiah, he claims “recovery of sight to the blind” as one of the marks of his ministry (Luke 4:18). So I find this a curious question.

The emotional high point for me in the telling of this story is the man’s response to Jesus curious question, “Lord, I want to see,” (Luke 18:40). Who could fail to respond to that?

Whether the man meant it or not, I feel certain that Luke did mean us to take this both literally and metaphorically. The man wants to physically see, but there is also a need for him to perceive things in a new way. He is already partly along the way to seeing the world in a new way. He calls Jesus “Son of David,” and “Lord” (Luke 18:38-40). In fact he rejects the description given by the leaders of the procession who refer to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth,” in favour of “Jesus, Son of David’”(Luke 17:37, 38).

Does the blind man already see more than the people who are hanging around Jesus?

As we saw yesterday seeing is such a characteristic Lukan way of indicating that understanding has dawned. And which of us wouldn’t echo the man’s request, regardless of how long we have been on the road as disciples. There is always more to see and understand. Always new journeys of faith to take. And we can never get to the place where we have seen everything because Jesus keeps on doing new things that take us by surprise.

This story also reminds me of the difference between healing and cure. Jesus may be hinting at this in the story. His question, unusual as it is, may be designed to elicit from the man the nature of the miracle he wants. The ambiguity of the answer allows us to imagine both forms of seeing. And so Jesus’ response is twofold.

“Receive your sight,” is the cure. The man can now physically see.

“Your faith has healed you,” is the deeper healing, the deeper and more insightful seeing. And with this new insight the man follows Jesus and praises God.

It’s a challenging thing to imagine ourselves into the position of this man just after Jesus has asked the question. How would you answer the question “What do you want me to do for you?”

What cure would you seek?

What healing would you seek?

What is most necessary for you to follow Jesus closer and to praise God?

I want to see.